By Fortune Abang
Amb. Kabiru Bala, the Nigeria High Commissioner to South Africa, says the mission never shut its door against Nigerians who came to register their grievances over xenophobic attack in that country.
Bala said this in a telephone conversation with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) from Pretoria, South Africa on Wednesday.
The high commissioner debunked the claims in some quarters that the mission in Pretoria was attacked by Nigerians in South Africa because it did not give them attention.
Bala, who said story was appalling and wicked, added, “the two missions were never closed. Two groups of Nigerians came to the high commission last week Thursday. They were received by the Acting High Commissioner while I was away.
“They came around 9 p.m. and were received and assured of safety and security. So it was not true that they were turned back.
“Let those who came and were either turned back or found the embassy closed give specific date and time.’’
He said that the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria and Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg had offered immense assistance to the affected Nigerians in the crisis.
Bala said that the mission had started to compile a list of Nigerians affected for engagement with the South African government and other stakeholders.
According to him, all Nigerian victims of the current attacks are requested to come forward to report their situation to the High Commission and the Consulate.
“The two missions will continue to be home to all Nigerians in these trying times and in the future.
“Since the outbreak of the attacks last week, the two missions have remained open and continued to render normal services to Nigerians and other customers without hindrance.
“We appeal to Nigerians to remain calm and avoid any action that may jeopardise efforts to engage the South African government through diplomatic channels to bring situation under control and restore normalcy.
“The two missions are currently working alongside all relevant authorities in South Africa, including the police to address the unfortunate situation,” he said.
Mr Ben Okoli, the President of Nigerian Citizens Association in South Africa (NICASA), who corroborated the high commissioner claim, stressed that the report was not true.
“The mission’s gate has never been shut against Nigerians; it has always kept its door open.
“What happened is that after the crisis in Pretoria where South African’s have destroyed Nigerian business and property, those whose property were destroyed had gone to the mission out of frustration and anger.
“So, I understand the situation; though it is not easy for somebody to lose his property and just be watching, but the mission gate was not shut against them,” he said.
According to him, they were received and invited by the minister of consular affairs who went as far as organising food for them and drinks to make sure that they are comfortable.
“So they were attended to and nobody would say that the gate was shut against them.
“The mission allowed them even though they came in by forced and destroyed part of the entrance, the mission provided food for them and gave them some drinks and that is it.
“And, they were encouraged to go and calculate their losses and bring back the report through the organisation. So, we are actually collaborating with people, who have lost their property.
“We are collecting inventories of what our people have lost which I will make available to the high commissioner in due time,” Okoli said.